Stirling’s Business Improvement District (BID) has scrapped this year’s levy payment for smaller businesses to help those badly hit by Covid-19 trading restrictions.
Any company with a rateable value below £51K will not be charged their 2020/21 fee – a total of 461 Stirling businesses.
The remainder of the city’s 143 BID zone companies, which include national retailers Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, McDonalds and Superdrug, will be billed in full for the year.
Last year, Go Forth was one of a handful of Scottish BIDs to reduce the levy fee.
The BID’s financial year ends on August 31 and the Board made the unprecedented decision to cut the fee by 50% for all levy payers – effectively not charging any business for the first six months of the pandemic (March to August).
Instead, the team relied on grant funding and careful budgeting to ensure they could offer business owners an enhanced package of support to help them through the crisis.
This included an extensive selection of online training courses, the provision of protective equipment and the introduction of an e-commerce grant scheme.
Go Forth Stirling Project Director Danielle McRorie-Smith said: “Stirling has many small independent businesses who have been hard hit financially by the Tier 4 and lockdown trading restrictions and we want to support them as best we can.
“We felt the best way of doing this was to scrap the 2020/21 levy payment for those businesses with a rateable value under £51K while still maintaining some income by charging larger retailers who are above that threshold as usual.
“Also, the majority of these larger businesses actually have a 50% credit already on their accounts because they paid the 2019/20 levy in full.”
She added: “Despite our drop in income last year, we have been able to continue to offer a great package of assistance for Stirling businesses thanks to grants from organisations like Scotland’s Towns Partnerships and ongoing support from Stirling Council.
“We have budgeted carefully for the year ahead and will apply for more grants and government support to ensure our comprehensive assistance and level of service continues at a time when our businesses need it most.”
Like all BIDs, Go Forth Stirling charges business owners a levy which varies according to the rateable value of their retail premises.
The funds are then invested back into Stirling city centre to develop projects and events aimed at increasing footfall plus grants and schemes to improve the city centre environment for shoppers and retailers alike.
Projects launched since the start of the pandemic have included a free online training platform; the provision of protective equipment; digital grants; PR and poster campaigns and a comprehensive online business directory.
The team is currently working on the Street Stories initiative which will see eight of Stirling’s empty shops transformed into vibrant works of art in a bid to encourage footfall around the city centre.
Plans are also underway for the creation of Independent Stirling as a brand to highlight the city’s thriving independent scene and promote the stories and personalities behind these unique businesses.
Further projects include the provision of a free WiFi service throughout the city centre and major investment in winter lighting to create a warm and welcoming ambiance which will attract visitors and residents alike.
Meanwhile, Stirling business owners are invited to an online Annual Levy Payers’ Meeting next month.
The virtual event, on Thursday March 11, will give members the chance to hear from the Go Forth team and its board and have the opportunity to shape the direction of the BID as it sets out plans for the next five-year term.
A ballot among city traders will take place next Spring with the second BID term beginning in September 2022 if successful.
The Eventbrite link for the March meeting can be found here – www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/annual-meeting-with-go-forth-stirling-bid-levy-payers-registration-140060134633
For more details about Go Forth Stirling BID, visit www.goforthstirling.co.uk